Jazz at JUMP

JUMP Nationals were in town last week (NYC) and I attended jazz, lyrical contemporary, ballet and hip hop classes. On Saturday I was able to talk to some students. Here’s what they had to say about evolving jazz and contemporary dance styles:

“Everyone’s trying to copy that quirky and weird technique,” said recent high school grad Natalie Iscovich, referring to the overwhelming trend of fluid movement accented by sharp, broken movements and torso undulations. Other students agreed that now everything looks the same. Iscovich continued, “jazz used to be lines, legs, technique; now it’s about choreography.” They all agreed they wanted to see trends in jazz cycle back to the classic style that emphasized clear shapes and lines.

They also loved the contemporary classes offered at the convention: the fullness of the style; how one uses every inch of the body to execute detailed and precise moves. “It involves technique, but you go outside the lines and interpret it a different way,” says Aly Galvin, a high school student from Portland Oregon.

Some students insisted they were going straight into the professional dance world after high school, but a lot of the older students wanted to continue their studies in higher education. Iscovich plans to attend Chapman College as a dance major this fall; another student from Houston wants to major in modern dance at college next year; and another student from Seattle is headed to Tisch School of the Arts, here in New York. I admired the level of professionalism as the students took corrections and intently listened to coaches and teachers. They worked extremely hard, and showed great determination to soak up as much as they could from every class. And even though it was a competition, the students were mutually supportive, congratulating each other and giving well-deserved compliments to their peers.

Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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Teaching Tips
Getty Images

After months of lockdowns and virtual learning, many studios across the country are opening their doors and returning to in-person classes. Teachers and students alike have likely been chomping at the bit in anticipation of the return of dance-class normalcy that doesn't require a reliable internet connection or converting your living room into a dance space.

But along with the back-to-school excitement, dancers might be feeling rusty from being away from the studio for so long. A loss of flexibility, strength and stamina is to be expected, not to mention emotional fatigue from all of the uncertainty and reacclimating to social activities.

So as much as everyone wants to get back to normal—teachers and studio owners included—erring on the side of caution with your dancers' training will be the most beneficial approach in the long run.

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